Budget, taxes, education, drugs - Gov. John Kasich covered a lot of ground in his State of the State speech in Sandusky. And he also made a little news.
Faced with a huge and deadly opioid crisis that’s killing eight people a day in Ohio, Kasich proposed some new money toward the battle – from the state fund best known for backing high-tech ideas. “I’m asking the Third Frontier Commission to provide up to $20 million to help bring new scientific breakthroughs to the battle against drug abuse and addiction. These funds will target existing proven ideas that simply need an extra push to be brought to the fight.”
Kasich also defended his budget, saying lawmakers need to preserve the 17% income tax cut in it, which is paid for with an increase in the sales tax and higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and oil and natural gas drilling. Republican lawmakers have said that the fracking tax is a non-starter, but Kasich said his tax changes are critical to the state’s economic future. “It matters. It matters to what people are going to pay. So we’re never going to be as competitive as we need to be if we don’t keep paying attention to this.”
Republicans also seemed cool to his praise for Medicaid expansion, which Kasich worked to pass without their support. Kasich spent a fair amount of the speech talking about technology, saying it’s the key to retraining people in jobs of the future. He mentioned his chief innovation officer position he wants to create, and that this person would lead a new Ohio Institute of Technology, “…which will mine our strengths, coordinate our resources and always be looking ahead to help our state stay in front of what’s coming next.”
He also talked up a task force he wants to see of business and education leaders to look toward jobs of the future. On the subject of education, he again mentioned two controversial ideas – a proposed requirements that teachers do internships at businesses to renew their licenses, and a plan to put three businesspeople on school boards as non-voting members.
Kasich also continued his tradition of Courage Awards to people whose work he admires. This year’s winners were Toledo minister Dan Rogers, who trains and counsels people on keeping their lives on track so they can keep jobs; Columbus judge Paul Herbert, who started the CATCH Court in Franklin County to reach victims of human trafficking; and Damone Hudson, the Dayton bus driver who’s credited with saving a woman who appeared to be jumping off a bridge by stopping his bus and asking her if she wanted a hug.